Panasonic PT-AR100U Home Theater Projector Review
PT-AR100U Projector Black Level Peformance
Black levels are nothing to write home about on the Panasonic PT-AR100U, but then, that’s not surprising, on a just above “entry level” priced projector. If you do want really excellent black levels – consider finding one of last year’s Panasonic PT‑AE4000 projectors (it sold for about $2,000), or, the more expensive and new PT-AE7000, Panasonic’s top-of-the-line home theater projector which isn’t quite as bright, but has far superior black level performance, and by the way, is also 3D capable.
I do not believe that at $999 you can find another projector that has substantially better blacks.
Panasonic PT-AR100U: You can already see the letter box, and the blacks of space getting lighter. The dark black at top and bottom is screen, not screen frame, so that’s how much ambient light is hitting the screen. It is obviously not a factor in the raised blacks (dark grey) of the PT-AR100U projector.
Epson Home Cinema 3010: Image is a good bit darker so letterboxes do not tell you much:
Epson Home Cinema 5010: Dramatically better, look at “outer space”, and note how much darker it is on this much more expensive Epson. That’s OK, though, we use the 5010 as our reference for mid and lower priced projectors because of its blacks.
Optoma HD8300: Very nice, better than the Panasonic, about half way to the Epson
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB ($2199), last year’s black level champ under $3,000:
Optoma HD33 (lower cost, $1499 3D capable projector): Blacks are no match.
JVC DLA-HD250: Now discontinued – No dynamic iris, but blacks roughly comparable to the Epson 5010 and 8700UB. Otherwise though, limited in features compared to the Epson (no 3D, no CFI, and half the brightness).
Runco LS10d projector ($27,000+): This one is included to make the point, that a lot more money doesn’t mean any significant improvement in black levels. Think, instead that other things become more important.
BenQ W6000, a “perennial favorite” now roughly $1500 DLP:
Epson Home Cinema 3010: Epson’s lowest priced 3D projector, $1599, has better dark shadow detail, and also a slight advantage in blacks (note the woods on the right):
Epson Home Cinema 5010: With the best blacks under $3000, the Epson really “pops” on this scene while the Panasonic seems flat. (And it easily does better than the Epson 3010 above.)
Panasonic PT-AE7000: Far better at blacks, and even slightly better at shadow detail than its little brother, the PT-AR100U
Optoma HD33: A bit more money, but a good 2D/3D, DLP projector, seems about comparable at both blacks and details
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB: Still the black level champ of the projectors selling for around the Panasonic’s price or less, though only $2000. The better blacks definitely add some extra “pop and wow”, on these really dark scenes.
Mitsubishi HC4000: Excellent lower cost DLP projector, but no dynamic iris for improving blacks, yet comparable to the Panasonic.
BenQ W6000 (ultra high contrast, 2D): A direct competitor, and a very good DLP for a bit less. No 3D.
Sony VPL-HW30ES: Really nice blacks, but like the Optoma HD8300, not quite up to the Epson, nor is its shadow detail
Black Level and Shadow Detail Performance: PT-AR100U Projector - Bottom Line
To summarize: Black level performance is fairly typical of lower cost entertainment projectors. Remember this projector is really destined for a family room, a living room, any kind of room you can throw at it that probably doesn’t have dark walls, dark ceilings, dark floors and full lighting control. This is a projector built to slug it out with some ambient sunlight sneaking into the room or having some lights on and so on.
That means you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the darkest blacks as much as if the projector were in a dedicated home theater. That ambient light is going to dilute the blacks, raise all the levels up with those better projectors. Even though they would still have the slight advantage with some ambient light present, it really negates much of the reason for having an ultra high contrast projector, if the room can’t be property darkened.
With that in mind, Panasonic passed our tests here in that there are no issues with either the black levels or the shadow detail performance. This projector performs in terms of those items exactly as one would expect it to in a partially lit family room, which is to say, “very nicely”.
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